Written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, Goodnight Moon was released in 1947 and very gradually became a bestseller. Today, it continues as a children’s favorite, selling more than 800,000 copies a year. As a result, you’ve likely read this story an unfathomable number of times if you are or have ever been a caretaker for wee kiddos. Nevertheless, we hope we can surprise you with these interesting tidbits about the perennial children’s classic.
- After conducting research in the development of childhood speech patterns, Brown emphasized rhythm and repetitive patterns of sound, the first aspects of speech to capture children’s attention, in Goodnight Moon. This helps to explain both why the book has a wonderfully hypnotic effect on sleepy children, and why it bores parents to tears.
- Take a closer look at the illustrations next time you read Goodnight Moon and you’ll find surprising complexity. Illustrator Clement Hurd included dozens of intentional, minor variations from page to page. The light changes and the clock hands move as the night gets later, and the restless bunny shifts around in his bed.
- The image of the cow jumping over the moon was altered so that the udder was less anatomically accurate, in order to avoid offending the sensibilities of 1940s parents, teachers, and librarians.
- Much like Maurice Sendak’s decision to draw wild things rather than horses, the characters in Good Night Moon are rabbits simply because Hurd was better at drawing them than people.
- The picture book has been spoofed as a sci-fi mashup called Goodnight Dune.
- Brown died young and, curiously, left the royalties for Goodnight Moon to her neighbor’s son, Albert (Albert later claimed that Brown was his biological mother). Unfortunately, he squandered his riches on drugs and crime.
- A framed photo in one of the illustrations features a scene from The Runaway Bunny, another of Brown’s books.
- In 2005, Harper Collins photoshopped the book’s photo of Clement Hurd to remove a cigarette from his hand. The publishing company argued that leaving the cigarette in the photo would “send a potentially harmful message to very young [children].”
- The New York Public Library refused to include the book in its collection until 1973, calling it “unbearably sentimental.”
- Though an incredibly successful children’s author, Brown said in 1946, “Well, I don’t especially like children, either. At least not as a group. I won’t let anybody get away with anything just because he is little.”
This week’s selection is number 4 on School Library Journal’s List of the Top 100 Picture Books.